[Originally posted on my Facebook group, “What is Wellness? A Mental Health Discussion Group.”]
For many years, I have viewed my depression as evidence of spiritual deficiency. In 2006, I took up a meditation practice with a guru in India, with the hopes that I would become more Enlightened, and therefore less mentally ill. It backfired. The practice gave my subconscious extra food for thought, and I developed schizophrenia.
Regarding mental illness and spirituality, I notice that spirituality manifests in different ways. For some, spirituality helps. It provides a sense of balance, centering and empowerment. It helps to detach from the cruel world and find solace in that which is more organic and natural for the self.
But I don’t see it helping everyone it touches, necessarily. Yesterday, while waiting for the bus, I sat on a stone structure on a concrete park island. A woman dressed in green sat on a bench nearby me. She had a black cross drawn on her forehead, and she held up a green bible. She then threw a stuffed animal of a wolf in my direction on the concrete, which also had a green chain around its neck.
When I boarded the bus, she got on before me and sat in the back area. I myself also went back there, as there were some seats available. I passed her and sat across from her. She then talked to everyone on the bus, telling them that I brushed her with my bag and that I was an axis of evil. She said that I was plotting against her with my mind, and that I should be sent to hell. I was not inclined to move, nor was I offended by what she said. I work in mental health, and I’ve revitalized my own life. I guess others were amused, but no one said anything.
I remember myself having religious ideations. As I grew further and further from reality, I believed that this was justified because I was becoming closer to a spiritual sense. These spiraled so terribly into my head, that I eventually hit rock bottom: I believed I was the Antichrist. I was so afraid when I went to the ER. As I sat in the little room, waiting to be evaluated, I thought everything around me was a planned charade. That everyone knew who I was, and that the hospital too were devilish minions that were preparing me to deliver to Satan. When people spoke to me, I heard them speak in whispers. Incidentally, I had a bad case of eczema, which had completely covered the backs of my hands. I fancied that this was me shedding human skin, which would soon reveal reptilian skin underneath.
The creativity of the human mind is immense. Now that I am mentally well, I can use my creativity for a productive purpose, yielding positive results: connectivity to people, a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, and also movement in my life. Happiness, derived from growing and learning from the past.
Mental illness served to warp my creative senses. Instead of expressing them outward, they hit me internally. To the point that I was a walking method actor, 24/7 living the character of “the Antichrist.” It was dreadful. I thought that I was responsible for the suffering of every single thing that has ever lived. Sometimes, I still get fooled. I think, “Oh, I’m trying to help others with mental illness… but it’s all wrong.” When this happens, I’ll ask friends of mine if I’m evil, and they tell me not.
Perhaps it is something not much spoken of, but this whole “subliminal” world… it exists within the walls of psychiatric hospitals, as I have experienced it. People, coming in with spiritual notions, ideas that they wield spiritual “powers,” or are perhaps connected to deities, God, what have you… it is very real. People in hospitals, trying to play with magic and move energy around and try and escape, or comply… people who are convinced that it’s a conspiracy… this is the stuff of psychotic madness.
Once I thought I was the reincarnation of Beethoven, while hospitalized. During the morning, I sat adjacent to a young man, on the Schizophreniform spectrum, talking to his case worker. Suddenly, I heard in the corner of my ear,
And I freaked out. Now… whether he actually said it or not, I am not sure. Perhaps he did, perhaps I fancied it. But nevertheless, my imagination ran wild, and I became aware and frightened of an undercurrent that bound everyone in the unit together. This idea that, perhaps, we are all true in our delusions. That we are all who we say we are. That we are Gods, devils, reincarnated people, messengers, messiahs, saviors, or Satan himself.
I have many other examples I could describe of this “undercurrent”, but perhaps another time.
I’m glad now that I am well. I hope that what I write here is not… wrong, or taboo, or evil. I just know that I’m here. Alive. Breathing. And I’m away from that. Instead, I can play my viola now. Instead of having the viola speak gibberish to me, I now can just focus on the music. I can watch performers happily, enjoying their strains. I never could do that before. Always, the envy and hate and psychosis and depression shielded from music’s goodness.
So sinister the situation felt, that I had been afflicted since childhood. So sinister, that it felt as if the illness was inflicted not by brain chemistry, but by a personality, determined to stifle and suffocate my very life.
This is what I faced. I hope that I am only alone in this experience, but perhaps mental illness affects in this same way. I hope not. I hope what I write here is irrelevant.
I am also afraid of even writing this. Maybe I am evil. Maybe I am what that woman on the bus said. Maybe my mind should be put to death.